You don’t have to look at many corporate websites to see the one thing they all have in common: they’re boring. In fact, if you can stay awake to read a typical corporate website, you probably have insomnia.
Why is this?
Is it the subject matter? Everyone knows it’s easier to make celebrities or current events interesting than to talk about corrugated carton packaging solutions or rotary lift parts. If an industry isn’t already popular, does it have to be dull? Is something else at work?
There are many factors that can make Web content dry and stale—many of which have nothing to do with the subject matter.
To help you evaluate your own site, here are seven reasons website content loses readers:
1. It forgets the reader. Too many companies make their content product- and company-focused and don’t acknowledge what’s in it for the audience. This is what Michael Brenner of B2B Marketing Insider calls the “biggest mistake marketers make.” Don’t assume readers will automatically be interested in your product—show them why they should be.
Tip: Think about what your product offers customers, and look for ways to build your content around those benefits. Show readers exactly why they should want your product.
2. It doesn’t know the reader. Who are your typical customers? Hospitals or grocery stores? Parents or business managers? To reach them, you need to know who and where they are, what they want, and what interests them. This is where customer research is so valuable. Your content should target the type of customers you want to reach by showing what you offer and taking their interests and preferences into account.
Tip: Whether on your own or with the help of an Internet marketing company, research your audience before you write your content, and use the research to inform your style, tone and perspective.
3. It’s too general and filled with fluff. Filling your website with empty content doesn’t do anything for you or your readers. Rather than write general paragraphs to fill pages, design your content to communicate real facts and information about your company and what it offers.
Tip: Ask yourself if your site answers the basic questions of who, what, where and when for readers. Will your content give customers a clear sense of what you do and offer, or will they leave with questions?
4. It’s too detailed and heavy on jargon. Just as content that’s too general can turn off readers, so can content that’s too detailed. Companies need to get outside their heads so they can write about their services and products in a way that appeals to readers. Write in clear, concise sentences that get to the point quickly.
Tip: Write content to appeal to your customers, not your executives. If you’re not sure if there’s too much jargon on your site, ask someone outside your industry to take a look.
5. It’s too long. Many companies will add more content to their websites over time without reevaluating what to remove. According to Paul Boag at Smashing Magazine, this is because they’re afraid users will miss something, not understand, or need a lot of content to be convinced. Unfortunately this plan often backfires, as long content turns readers away and nobody even reads it.
Tip: Rather than make your content longer, make it more meaningful. See what you can take out without losing your message. Tighten your content and make it more concise.
6. It’s in third person. Remember how you needed to write every high school paper in third person? To be credible and authoritative, you couldn’t write with “I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours,” etc.
On the Web—where you write to attract customers and build connections-it’s the opposite. Third person often feels stale, stuffy, boring and disconnected from readers. In fact, for most companies, writing in third person is a classic sign they focus too much on themselves and not enough on readers. When you speak to your reader, you’re instantly more personal and effective.
7. It’s sloppy and unprofessional. For many companies, it’s not a lack of understanding that limits their Web content, but a lack of resources. It takes time and energy to write content that draws in customers and holds their interest. Many small to mid-sized businesses allocate that time and energy to other necessary projects. Sloppy, unprofessional and half-finished content is often the result.
Tip: If your company lacks the internal resources to create and manage Web content, enlist a professional copywriter for help.
Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North. She writes for B2B clients in various industries, from providers of an environmental monitoring solution to makers of fire retardant clothing. A version of this article was originally published here: http://blog.straightnorth.com/why-corporate-website-content-is-so-dull/